A terrific Spring hike is the Tam-a-lau Trail located within Cove Palisades State Park. The park is situated among towering cliffs that surround Lake Billy Chinook, an impoundment of the Deschutes, Crooked, and Metolious rivers. The lake was named after a Wasco tribe member who assisted The Fremont Expedition in 1843. The Cove Palisades was once a popular place for tribes traveling along the Columbia trade route to visit and relax. This stretch of the trade route was referred to as “the place of big rocks in the ground” or Tam-a-lau. The current trail was built in 1997 to give visitors access to “The Peninsula”, a 600 foot tall plateau that mimics the pre-western settlement ecology of nearby ‘The Island’. ‘The Island’ is a 200 square foot mass of land isolated within Lake Bily Chinook. The ecology here is so significant it has been cut off from public access. ‘The Island’ is viewable from the tip of The Peninsula.
The hike can be accessed from The Upper Deschutes Day Use Area ($3 Day Use Fee). The hike begins flat and meanders through many large boulders.
The trail then gains 600 feet in 1.1 miles. This part of the trail can be a bit grueling and is not advisable during the hottest days of summer. The trail has some steep drop-offs pass with caution and mind you dogs and children.
The trail then flattens out for the next 5 miles as it loops around The Peninsula. This portion of the hike is rich with sweeping views of The Cascades and The Deschutes arm of Lake Billy Chinook. Wildlife is abundant here, look for lizards, mag-pies, mule deer. Beware of rattlesnakes.
From Bend travel North on Highway 97 towards Madras for 42 miles, take a slight Left on Culver Highway. Continue on another 3 miles through Culver to Cove Palisades State Park. The park offers camping, day use areas, and over 10 miles of hiking trails. Lake Billy Chinook is a popular lake for fishing and boating.